Former Olympian backs Asher-Smith and Johnson-Thompson for impressive World Championship showings

Sayers is backing two of Great Britain's leading stars to shine in Doha
Sayers is backing two of Great Britain's leading stars to shine in Doha

Dina Asher-Smith and Katarina Johnson-Thompson are ready to the international stage by storm at this year’s World Athletics Championships, insists Olympian Goldie Sayers.

Orpington sprint sensation Asher–Smith missed out on an individual medal at London 2017 before claiming a hat-trick of gold medals at the European Championships in Berlin last year.

Heptathlete Johnson-Thompson was also unable to finish on the podium at the last World Championships, finishing fifth, but bounced back to claim European silver.

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Expectations will now be high on the duo to lead Britain’s medal challenge in Doha in November ahead of Tokyo 2020 – a challenge Sayers believes they will take in their stride.

“There is a lot of potential in the British team, always competing against the best in the world that you haven’t necessarily got in the sprints and long distance in Europe,” said SportsAid alumni Sayers.

“It’s always a much sterner test but I think we’re starting to get a lot of young athletes now coming through and I’m really excited to see Dina Asher-Smith perform.

“She was fourth two years ago at London 2017 and that was off the back of a really serious injury [broken foot in training], so I have no doubt that she’ll do something special.

“It will also be interesting to see the likes of KJT in action as well. I’m excited about the female side definitely, I think our standout performers come from the female side.”

Liverpool’s Johnson-Thompson also claimed gold at the World Indoor Championships last year, banishing memories of her near misses at the Olympics in 2016 and worlds in 2015 and 2017.

And former javelin star Sayers, an Olympic bronze medallist at Beijing 2008, insists the 26-year-old has shown she can now handle the pressure of competing for major honours.

“I think now is KJT’s time, she’s got the experience, she’s got a lot of confidence from winning so many major championships in the last couple of years,” she added.

“I think leaving to go to France was a really good decision and she’s just grown in confidence and that’s the biggest thing in this sport because it can be quite brutal.

“She knows she can beat Nafissatou Thiam and beat the other athletes so hopefully it goes right for her on the day at the World Championships.

“I was so impressed, knowing what she’d been through, going into the last World Championships and how well she performed off the back of a very disruptive winter.

“That’s going to give her a lot of confidence and know she’s very much in the spotlight and that comes with its own pressures but if anyone can handle that then she can.”

Sayers was speaking at a SportsAid workshop being hosted by the Mayor of London’s office, which is supporting over 75 athletes from in and around the London region, at the London Stadium.

SportsAid helps the most promising young British athletes by providing them with financial support, recognition and personal development opportunities during the early stages of their careers.

Athletes are nominated to SportsAid by the national governing bodies of more than 60 sports based on set criteria for each, with the typical value of a SportsAid award £1,000.

Sayers is currently helping 20-year-old British heptathlete Niamh Emerson by passing on her javelin knowledge and said she is excited about the future potential of her protégé.

“Niamh is still such a young athlete but hopefully she’ll make the team for the World Championships,” said Sayers. “She is a very special athlete.

“What’s most impressive about her is her attitude and she is a joy to coach, so I’m really enjoying the challenge of trying to maximise the points she can get in javelin.

“I think she’s got huge potential, certainly in that event, and a lot of potential in the heptathlon overall so I’m looking forward to seeing how she is going to progress.”

The Mayor of London is working with SportsAid to provide financial support and personal development opportunities to talented young athletes from across the capital. Visit https://www.london.gov.uk/what-we-do/sports/sport-unites/sportsaid to find out more.

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